There is a genuine fear among some (yes, just some) Pakistanis that their society and state is headed straight to becoming a 21st century model of fascism.
I say the fear is being noted and felt by just some Pakistanis because it seems to most of their compatriots – especially those squirming within the growing, agitated and uptight urban middle-classes – the emergence of such a state and society is actually something to do with abstract concepts like ‘national sovereignty,’ ‘honour’ (ghairat), ‘revolution’ and a ‘positive Pakistan!’
It’s like saying chronic neurosis is a pretty positive thing to have.
Recently in a sharp and pointed article, author and scientist, Pervez Hoodbhoy, clearly alluded to how the Pakistani society and state are showing signs of the kind of myopic mindset that the German society plunged into in the 1920s and 1930s, setting the scene for Hitler and his fascist outfit and mentality to become Germany’s overlords – eventually taking the nation over the brink and towards widespread destruction.
So is the Pakistani society headed in the same direction?
A number of experts and sociologists have drawn some prominent symptoms to look for in figuring out if a particular society is drifting into the clutches of fascism.
Let’s discuss a few in Pakistan’s context:
• Symptom 1: Powerful and Continuing Nationalism
Fascist societies/cultures tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.
In Pakistan patriotism has been intertwined with the belief in a divine monolithic deity. Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether a person is singing praises of God or the state. It’s as if both are one and the same. Thus, if you are not all that enthusiastic about singing loud patriotic songs or displaying 50X10 Pakistani flags over your 5X2 office cubical, you are a traitor and/or/thus a kafir.
• Symptom 2: Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats
The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe.
Pakistan has enemies. Pakistan has always had enemies. Pakistan will always have enemies. Pakistan is, because it has enemies. Everything that goes wrong in Pakistan is because of its enemies. But Pakistan is also united because of its enemies.
They are: India, US, Israel, Hindu, Jew, Christian, Liberal, Ahmadi, Democrat, Secular, Politician, Ethnic Nationalist, Papua New Guinea – all are enemies.
Pakistan will vanquish them all through its unity until it makes new enemies so the unity can be retained. More enemies, more unity, dig?
And did I tell you Pakistan has enemies?
• Symptom 3: Supremacy of the Military
Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorised.
Sometimes it seems the founder of Pakistan was a paternal army general who created the country to look and function like one giant military mess hall where military men are always plotting, eating and shouting out orders to waiters and cooks who are all lowly civilians.
It is the patriotic duty of every Pakistani civilian to work hard so the military can be kept well-fed and continue to win us glorious victories against our many enemies like it’s been doing ever since 1947.
Anyone who thinks otherwise is, of course, anti-Pakistan and must have had some genetic link with the treacherous Bengalis who massacred millions of Pakistani soldiers in 1971.
But thanks to the well-deserved annual budgets sanctioned for defence, we were able to win the 1971 war as well; and it was our gallant army that decided to let go of East Pakistan because the Bengalis were useless and only interested in wrapping rice in banana leaves and killing fish for lunch.
• Symptom 4: Controlled Mass Media
Sometimes the media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by media spokespeople and executives who are sympathetic towards certain organs of the state and its interests.
The freedom of media in Pakistan is the freedom to say 2+2=5. Anything else is bad mathematics and not good for national interest. And ratings.
• Symptom 5: Obsession with National Security
Fear is used as a motivational tool by the state and media over the masses.